Friday K-Pop Fiesta - March 22nd, 2024

Smaller groups pepper some of my playlist in late March 2024.

Friday K-Pop Fiesta - March 22nd, 2024
Purple Kiss is back with their 1st comeback of 2024 with "BBB". Source: PURPLE KISS (YouTube)

I've never been much of a big 4 group or soloist listener. Sure, there are some exceptions, but by and large, I've appreciated the mid-tier and lower groups in K-Pop. This is mostly because they oftentimes possess much less in terms of connections and resources than their big 4 brethren. So when they reach some kind of success and sustainability, I feel like it means more, at least to me. I won't take away from the skill and talent it takes a big 4 group to succeed, but there's a certain kind of charm to the lesser-known groups and artists getting a bit of shine. That's pretty much what I've seen in my playlist this past week, so let's get right into it!

LUCY - "The knight who can't die and the silk cradle"

Whew, that's a mouthful to say, isn't it? LUCY, however, has always had a lot to say when it comes to their pop rock band type of music, and it's always charmed me. You'd think that a music video that was a bit of an animation feature that consisted mostly of the titular knight and a young child running wouldn't be charming, but it is, in that sort of simple, fanart-sy way that a video can be.

Besides, it's the music that's truly the focus of this song - a kind of uplifting rock ballad that makes you feel good in its whimsical story as well as its determination to stay connected. Meaningful and emotional rock has ever been in LUCY's wheelhouse, and the song, to me, feels a lot like they're singing to their small but faithful fandom they've managed to cultivate over the years. LUCY is just feelgood music, and it shows.

Apink Namjoo - "BAD"

Apink is pretty much one of K-Pop's "made" groups, with over a decade's worth of bangers and cool tunes to their name. One thing that's always impressed me about the group is that they've managed the sort of maturation in concept and style that is necessary for long-lived girl groups while still maintaining their fans. That support has largely continued into the group's solo activities and their versatility has always made me curious about what they can do individually.

Admittedly, Namjoo isn't quite who I think about when I think about Apink - I've always been more of a Eunji or Bomi follower. But songs like "BAD" remind me that she served two lead roles in the group for a reason. The last song I remember from her, 2020's "Bird", carried this undeniable swagger that was punctuated by sharp vocals and choreography that you don't soon forget. "BAD" is no less, well, badass, and on top of that it's unapologetic about what people think of her. We need more idols exuding that kind of energy, especially in their solo tracks.

Purple Kiss - "BBB"

From the time they debuted, Purple Kiss has always struck me as this sort of scrappy confident group that wasn't afraid to be experimental and try out their own style in order to stand out from the pack. Oddly named title tracks ("Ponzona" and "memeM" come to mind), surreal music video action, a sort of supernatural "witchy" concept - all of these were a recipe for me to get interested, and stay invested in where they were going.

The departure from their supernatural-ish concept roots into more of a modern cool urban vibe from last year's "7HEAVEN" to this year's latest, "BBB" hasn't bothered me too much - concepts can and do change over time, after all - but the move to a more generally appealing sound has made me just a slight bit skeptical. Groups like Purple Kiss have been hit a bit harder with the big 4/survival show member-backed 4th generation rookie boom as multis have their attention divided, so I understand the change, but I do miss some of what made them unique, at least in title track-land. But don't mistake that for me not liking "BBB" - it takes full advantage of the group's strengths, from Goeun and Swan's vocals to Yuki's refined rapping from being a part of MNet's "EL7Z UP" to Dosie and Chaein's clean dancing. Even wrapped in a new girl-crush like wrapper this is still the Purple Kiss I know and appreciate, and their b-sides (especially the ones penned in part by Goeun and Chaein) still give me that old Purple Kiss feel. Check out "Heart Attack" for just one example.

INFINITE Sunggyu and Woohyun - "Beautiful" (Four Lords: The Destiny Changer OST)

INFINITE has long since been in my "Hall of Fame" of K-Pop groups, sitting alongside KARA, SNSD, and more of the 2nd generation as those responsible for getting me into K-Pop. The individual activities after their reunion this past year have been few and far between, but this one was a treat - a subunit featuring two members known for their vocals in the group.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I was playing the video's action, which turned out to be a webdrama with some fantasy fortune-telling elements behind it. Still, the kind of blend of fast action and energetic music is right up Sunggyu and Woohyun's alley, and reminds me of the fact that we could really use another INFINITE group track at some point in the future. For now, having both Sunggyu and Woohyun belt out the song's title together during the song's bridge is enough for me.

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